Man violently dragged off overbooked United flight

A man was violently dragged off of a United Airlines flight Sunday evening after it was apparently overbooked, according to passengers who were on the plane.

In several videos posted on Twitter, three officers can be seen forcibly removing a man from his seat and dragging the distressed passenger by his wrists down the aisle, as other customers yelled out in protest.




One man said the passenger told the authorities he was a doctor who needed to get to his destination to see his patients.

United said in a statement that the flight from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked, but "after our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate."

"We apologize for the overbook situation," a spokesperson said.

United’s CEO Oscar Munoz later said in a statement that the company is conducting a detailed review of the “upsetting event.”

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers,” Munoz said. “Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.”

“We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation,” he added.

One passenger said on Twitter that the flight was overbooked by four people, with those seats needed for airline personnel. But after no one volunteered to leave, a manager said passengers would be randomly selected to give up their seats.

The man who was dragged off the plane was apparently one of the customers selected at random, but refused to leave because he said he needed to treat patients. Officers were then brought on board to assist with removing him.

The practice of overbooking and bumping passengers is not uncommon or illegal. The Department of Transportation (DOT) says most airlines overbook their scheduled flights “to a certain extent” in order to compensate for no-shows. When that occurs, airlines are required to first offer volunteers compensation in exchange for their seats before bumping someone involuntarily.

Anyone bumped against their will may be entitled to compensation, the agency says, and must be given a written statement detailing their rights and explaining how the airline decides who gets on an overbooked flight and who doesn't.

The DOT said it is reviewing the latest incident to ensure United complied with all consumer protection rules.

“While it is legal for airlines to involuntary bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities,” a DOT spokesperson said in a statement.

It’s unclear whether passengers on the United flight were first offered compensation and how customers were selected to be bumped off the flight. The airline did not immediately return a request for comment.

--This story was updated at 1:15 p.m.